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Sabres win No. 1 pick in NHL Draft Lottery

Hurricanes at No. 2, Canadiens will select No. 3 at event in Dallas

by Mike Battaglino and Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com Staff Writers

The Buffalo Sabres have the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft after winning the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday.

The Carolina Hurricanes will pick No. 2, and the Montreal Canadiens will pick No. 3.

"It's a great feeling," Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said. "I've been asked a lot leading up to this day how I felt, and to be honest I wasn't too nervous about the whole process. It's beyond your control the way the balls bounce, but it was nerve-wracking at the very end, and I'm very, very happy for our fan base."

 

[RELATED: Sabres finally celebrate Draft Lottery win | Draft Lottery tables: By number | By team]

 

The Sabres had the best chance at the No. 1 pick, 18.5 percent, based on their last-place finish in the NHL standings this season. The Hurricanes had a 3.0 percent chance to win (11th best), and the Canadiens had a 9.5 percent chance (fourth).

The 15 NHL teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs participated in the lottery, which was held in Toronto.

Video: Go inside Draft Lottery Room as picks are selected

The order of picks 1-15 was determined, with the Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators falling out of the top three, causing other teams to fall one spot each based on regular-season points.

Carolina had a 9.9 percent chance of moving up from 11th.

"Well, a lot of work to be done here at this point because we were thinking going into the draft we're going to be 11, now we're going to be picking in the top three," Hurricanes president Don Waddell told NBCSN. "It's good for our scouts, we have our meetings coming up this week, and we'll be prepared for it."

Montreal had a 28.8 percent chance to improve from No. 4.

"I mean, it was a tough year for all of us," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. "Obviously we're moving up ... we're going to be excited for the players we're going to get."

Video: Sabres earn No. 1 choice in 2018 NHL Draft

The draft will be held June 22-23 in Dallas. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is likely to be the No. 1 pick.

"He's the type of defenseman that 31 teams in the National Hockey League want these days," Botterill said of the 18-year-old. "Just that ability to jump up in the rush and create offensive chances but also have that competitive spirit to play against other team's top players."

Dahlin (6-foot-2, 183 pounds) had 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists), a plus-4 rating, 30 hits, 36 blocked shots and 84 shots on goal in 41 games averaging 19:02 in ice time for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. He had one goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating in six SHL playoff games.

"I'm trying to be a two-way [defenseman] with a more offensive game," Dahlin told NBCSN. "I like to make good passes and skate well, I think. ... I'm trying to work very much on my shot, of course my strength, and my weight. I think [those are] the main things."

 

[RELATED: Canadiens, Hurricanes move up in NHL Draft Lottery | Dahlin tops Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters | Svechnikov stays No. 1 in Central Scouting final rankings]

 

Dahlin is the No. 1 ranked International skater by NHL Central Scouting. The left-handed shot was named best defenseman at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, with six assists, 25 shots on goal and a plus-7 rating averaging more than 23 minutes a game for Sweden. He was the youngest player by seven years on Sweden's roster for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

"Dahlin is the real deal and the clear-cut, No. 1, pro-ready prospect for the 2018 draft," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. "His play at the World Junior Championship solidified that fact. He has the skating, skills and elite hockey sense that can dictate the style of play and pace of a game whether it's with or without the puck. He finds ways to contribute and get the job done in all situations."

Right wing Andrei Svechnikov of Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's list of North American skaters. The 18-year-old had 72 points (40 goals, 32 assists) in 44 games this season, his first in the OHL.

For a third straight year, the lottery assigned the top three picks in the first round. Three draws were held: the first drawing determined the No. 1 pick, the second drawing determined No. 2 pick, and the third drawing determined the No. 3 pick.

Video: Botterill on Sabres' draft lottery win

The team that finished last in the NHL standings won the draft lottery once in the prior six drawings. That was in 2016, when the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a 20.0 percent chance of winning, got the No. 1 pick and selected center Auston Matthews.

The No. 1 pick went to the team with the fewest points and best odds seven times in the 23 previous lottery drawings.

The Sabres had the best odds in 2014 and 2015 but did not win the lottery. The Florida Panthers (Aaron Ekblad, 2014) and Edmonton Oilers (Connor McDavid, 2015) received the No. 1 pick, with Buffalo selecting No. 2 each time (Sam Reinhart; Jack Eichel).

"Players are drawn and excited about playing with other skilled players," Botterill said. "… Hopefully they're excited about the situation here and having a star talent here."

Picks 16-29 will be determined prior to the Stanley Cup Final, with picks No. 30 and 31 to be set afterward.

The Senators will keep the No. 4 pick, general manager Pierre Dorion said. Ottawa had the option of giving the pick to the Colorado Avalanche (part of the in-season trade for forward Matt Duchene), or give its first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to Colorado.

The Philadelphia Flyers obtained the St. Louis Blues' pick (No. 14) in an offseason trade for forward Brayden Schenn.

 

2018 NHL Draft order

1. Buffalo Sabres

2. Carolina Hurricanes

3. Montreal Canadiens

4. Ottawa Senators

5. Arizona Coyotes

6. Detroit Red Wings

7. Vancouver Canucks

8. Chicago Blackhawks

9. New York Rangers

10. Edmonton Oilers

11. New York Islanders

12. New York Islanders (from Calgary Flames)

13. Dallas Stars

14. Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis Blues)

15.  Florida Panthers

NHL.com correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report.

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